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Home arrow Environment arrow Bats in the Anthropocene: Conservation of Bats in a Changing World

Noise, Odor, Dust, and Activity

Although echolocation calls emitted by most bats in open space are not audible to humans, many social vocalizations of bats are noticeable because they are typically below the 20 kHz auditory threshold of humans. These vocalizations may be particularly evident at times of the year when pups use contact calls to attract their returning mothers. Such vocalizations combined with noises caused by terrestrial locomotion of bat inhabitants, e.g., molossid bats moving through small crevices below tin roofs, can be a nuisance for human inhabitants. In addition, humans sometimes complain about bat-related odors and dust (Razafindrakoto et al. 2011).

Harmful Bats

Bat feces is suggested to have antigenic properties, causing skin rashes in susceptible humans (Alonso et al. 1998), yet detailed studies are lacking. To our knowledge, there is only one bat species worldwide that could be directly harmful to humans. The common vampire bat, Desmodus rotundus, consumes mammalian blood but is restricted to Latin America. Although this species feeds primarily on livestock animals, e.g., cattle (Delpietro et al. 1992; Voigt and Kelm 2006), vampire bats may feed on sleeping humans not protected inside buildings (Schneider et al. 2001; Carvalho-Costa et al. 2012). Though vampire bats are not known to inhabit occupied buildings, in some areas of South America, these bats inhabit abandoned buildings next to occupied houses (Mialhe 2013). Besides the potential of contracting rabies via a bite, humans can suffer from inflammation, secondary infections, and blood loss. Overall, humans are not a regular victim for vampire bats.

Destruction of Buildings Caused by Bat Excreta

Bats may inhabit buildings over many years, or even centuries, and accumulated feces and urine may cause severe damage to buildings. For example, bat guano was the cause of damage to some buildings of the UNESCO World Heritage Centre—Angkor monuments in Cambodia. Apparently, salts in excretions of bats are eroding the sandstone of some ancient buildings (Hosono et al. 2006). In most cases, structural damage can be prevented by removing accumulations of guano. Plastic sheets can be placed over exposed structures to protect them and facilitate the removal of urine and guano; in addition, wooden boards placed directly under roosts may also be helpful in collecting bat excreta from roosts inside buildings.

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